Appeal tribune. (Silverton, Or.) 1999-current, August 22, 2018, Page 2B, Image 6

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Sex crimes reports are up
Spike in Salem area most often involves
child sex abuse or substance-related rape
Olivia Heersink
Salem Statesman Journal
Salem has almost
twice as many sex crimes
reported per capita as the
Portland metro area.
And of Oregon’s five
largest counties, Marion
ranks second for sex of-
fenses per 100,000 peo-
ple, just below Lane, state
data analyzed by the
Statesman Journal show.
Most of the cases in-
volve child sex abuse or
substance-related rape.
But law enforcement ex-
perts aren't sure why the
cases are so pervasive in
Marion County and less
so in Multnomah, Wash-
ington and Clackamas
“It does seem like we
have a lot here,” said Scot-
ty Nowning, a Salem Po-
lice detective. “It’s a su-
per complicated issue. …
There’s not a black and
white answer.”
Some believe these
crimes are happening
more frequently, in part,
because of a lack of af-
fordable daycare options,
allowing predators easier
access to children. Others
suggest a higher rate of
recidivism among sex of-
fenders who stay in the
Salem area after being re-
leased from one of the
state prisons. Rising drug
and alcohol use on college
campuses also could con-
tribute to the higher rate
of assaults.
But the surge in sex
crime reports — 15 per-
cent in Marion County in
the past three years —
can't be attributed solely
to more crimes being
committed, experts say.
In part, the increase is
believed to reflect a great-
er willingness by victims
to come forward, espe-
cially with the recent
public spotlight on sexual
misconduct and the
#MeToo movement.
But law enforcement
in Marion County warn
too many sexual assault
and abuse cases still go
“We can't get a handle
on the issue if we don't
know how often it's going
on,” said Nowning, who
has been examining sex
crimes for five years with
Salem Police. “We need to
know what's going on in
our (area)."
Sexual abuse reports
don't translate directly
into arrests. Since 2013,
only a quarter of reported
sex crimes resulted in ar-
rests, a pattern that holds
true for most Oregon
Sometimes witnesses
refuse to testify, evidence
is incomplete or statutes
of limitations have ex-
pired. Nowning says in-
vestigations also can be
limited by inadequate re-
sources, lack of appropri-
ate training and conflict-
ing legal standards.
Reflecting national
In 2017, Marion County
Joseph C. Gross
C. Gross, 92, of Wood-
burn, Oregon died a
peaceful death at home
on August 9, 2018. Joseph
was born on March 1,
1926 in Hague,, North
Dakota to Carl and Bar-
bara (Heilman) Gross.
He married Frances
(Grinsteinner) Gross on
August 16, 1948 at St.
Mary’s Catholic Church in Richardton, North Da-
kota. After their marriage, they raised 10 children
in Bismarck ND, then Minneapolis MN, before
moving to Beaverton OR. They finally settled in
rural Woodburn OR and became members of St.
Mary’s Catholic Church in Mt. Angel OR. He is
survived by 9 of 10 children, Deborah Lee, Charles
Gross, Joseph Gross Jr., Myron Gross, Denise Win-
ter, Kevin Gross, Carla Nawn, Kimberly Cummins,
and Theresa Gross; as well as 8 brothers and sisters.
His wife Frances, three brothers and one daughter
(Virginia Hansen) preceded him in death. Joseph
devoted his life to God and family. A Rosary was
held at 10:30 AM, followed by funeral mass at St.
Mary’s Catholic Church in Mt. Angel, Oregon on
August 16, 2018. Joseph will be laid to rest next to
Frances on their 70th wedding anniversary.
had 155 sex crimes report-
ed per 100,000 people.
That was significantly
more than Oregon's three
most populous counties
making up the Portland
metro area — Multnomah
with 97, Washington with
106 and Clackamas with
81 reported cases.
In total, more than 525
sex offenses were report-
ed to authorities in Mar-
ion County in 2017 — a 10
percent increase from the
previous year.
During the same year,
Oregon police agencies
logged about 4,700 sex
crime reports statewide.
These crimes include:
rape, sodomy, fondling,
molestation, contribut-
ing to sexual delinquen-
cy, obscene phone calls,
sexual assault with an
object and unlawful con-
tact with a minor.
numbers closely align
with national trends.
In the United States,
one in six women and one
in 33 men have been the
victim of a rape or at-
tempted rape, according
to the Rape, Abuse and
Incest National Network.
Children most
frequent victims
Children are more at
risk of becoming victims
of sexual violence than
adults, especially young
Nearly 77 percent of all
reported sexual assaults
in the United States hap-
pen to persons under the
age of 17, according to
Stewards of Children, a
national child-care train-
ing program.
“It’s not a level playing
field for children,” said
Alison Kelley, chief exec-
utive officer of Liberty
House, a child abuse as-
sessment center in Sa-
In most cases, offend-
ers are known to the vic-
tim through a family, inti-
mate or acquaintance re-
lationship. A majority are
adult men with at least
one prior conviction.
Nowning, the Salem
detective, said a majority
of the sex crimes that he
investigates involve non-
related persons abusing
children under their
Parents often leave
their children with people
they shouldn’t because
they can’t afford proper
childcare, Nowning said.
Almost 13,000 workers in
the Salem area relied on
mum wage jobs last year,
according to state data.
“Here is a seemingly
willing to watch their
kids, but that person is
actually someone who of-
fends against them,” he
said. “We see that a lot.”
Nowning said some-
times these reports in-
volve registered sex of-
fenders who were re-
leased from prison and
remained in the area.
At least 60 known sex
offenders live in Marion
County, according to the
Oregon State Police Sex
Offender Inquiry System.
Traditionally, the de-
tective said, Marion
County has had a large
population of ex-inmates
because there are several
correctional facilities in
the area.
It's important to note,
however, that research
compiled by Stewards of
Children indicates con-
victed sex offenders have
a lower recidivism rate
than other criminals.
Encouraging more
Police also receive sex-
ual assault reports from
Corban University and
Chemeketa Community
College campuses involv-
ing drugs or alcohol, de-
tective Nowning said.
College-aged women,
18 to 24 years old, are
three times as likely to be
sexually assaulted, ac-
cording to some studies.
Nowning says the risk
increases when a con-
trolled substance is in-
He attributes part of
the Marion County in-
crease in sex-abuse re-
ports to having more
mandatory reporters des-
ignated by the Legisla-
ture, including school
staff, medical profession-
als and police.
But Nowning said the
increase also could reflect
a greater willingness for
victims to come forward.
Jayne Downing said
the number of sexual as-
sault calls to the Center
for Hope and Safety in
Salem has doubled in the
last couple of years. The
nonprofit provides sup-
port to victims of sexual
and domestic violence.
Most of victims com-
ing to the office don’t
want to make a formal re-
port, said Downing, the
center's executive direc-
adult women victims
want to be connected to
services, such as coun-
seling, or are in need of a
place to stay, she said.
“(When a report is
made) it then gets taken
out of their hands,”
Downing said. “They’ve
already had a lot of power
taken away from them by
someone assaulting them
and it may feel as though
even more power is being
taken away.
"It’s very traumatic to
tell your story.”
Downing said past ex-
perience with police also
plays a role in whether a
survivor will choose to
make a formal report.
Other reasons cited in
studies that show two-
thirds of sex offenses are
not reported to law en-
forcement include shame
and confusion about
what happened or anxi-
ety for family and friends
having to go through the
reporting process.
“There’s all these lay-
ers to it … and I don’t
think any of us can decide
for them what they
should do,” Downing
said. “Sometimes people
say, ‘everybody should
report and everybody
should get arrested,’ but
it’s not quite that simple.”
Prosecution can get
agencies in Marion Coun-
ty arrested 137 suspects
for sex crimes in 2017 —
an eight percent decrease
over the past two years.
wasn’t surprised by the
drop because his depart-
ment has lost two of its
experienced detectives
during that time. Includ-
ing Nowning, Salem Po-
lice has four sex crime in-
He said detectives
need special training to
be able to interview chil-
dren in sex abuse cases,
but only a few in the de-
partment are, including
“Resources are an is-
sue. Lack of training is an
issue,” Nowning said.
“You really have to be a
chameleon — you have to
be able to talk to a 5-year-
old kid about the most in-
timate and embarrassing
thing in an appropriate,
understandable way …
then flip gears and talk to
a monster who does hei-
nous things to children.
"It’s the best and worst
Sometimes, Nowning
said, there’s just not
enough information for
an investigation to pro-
ceed or a detective to be
assigned to a case, which
are triaged by level of ur-
gency or solvability.
“You’re relying on tes-
timonial evidence and
humans are somewhat
unpredictable. … Some-
times it’s great evidence
and sometimes it’s terri-
ble,” Nowning said. “You
know it happened, but
knowing it happened and
proving it happened are
twodifferent things.”
Most often it depends
on what the victim wants
to do, he said. Convic-
tions are more likely
when a victim is willing to
be an active participant
throughout the legal
Nowning said police
tactics are more trauma-
informed than past years,
giving survivors time to
process what happened
rather than pelting them
with questions.
He has put several
cases on hold while vic-
tims decide how they
want to proceed, telling
them “when you’re ready
and able to participate,
come back.”
“I imagine some will
never come back, but
some will and they have,”
he said.
Deputy District Attor-
ney Brendan Murphy said
the DA’s office and law
enforcement review en-
tire investigations to try
to avoid arrests that do
not result in prosecution.
“Just because we can
arrest someone doesn’t
always mean we should,
especially if we know
they won’t be prosecut-
ed,” Nowning said. “It’s
irresponsible to put a vic-
tim through the court
system if you know you
can’t convict someone.”
After an arrest is
made, the DA’s office has
to quickly decide whether
they will prosecute.
While a range of rea-
sons can prevent charges
from being filed, most of-
ten it is because of insuf-
ficient evidence, Murphy
said. Sometimes the vic-
tim isn’t legally compe-
tent enough to testify or is
unavailable as a witness.
A majority of the DA’s
cases result in convic-
tion, either through plea
negotiations or convic-
tion at trial, he said.
Sentences vary, but
generally include time in
prison, Murphy said. Out
of every 1,000 sexual as-
saults, the Rape, Abuse
and Incest National Net-
work estimates 57 indi-
viduals will be taken into
custody, 11 prosecuted
and six incarcerated.
Advocates seek
cultural shift
During her time in the
Legislature, Sen. Sara
Gelser, D-Corvallis, has
pushed for laws holding
sex offenders account-
able while supporting
victims on college cam-
puses and in tribal com-
Gelser said some of the
new laws increased the
statute of limitations on
sex crimes and allowed
offenders to be charged if
there is new DNA evi-
She also successfully
spearheaded a bill in
2009 that defined sex
with an incapacitated
person as rape.
Gelser said victims are
now able to track the sta-
tus of their rape kits and
file for an order protecting
them against people who
aren’t family or intimate
For the upcoming ses-
sion, she will sponsor a
proposal that would
automatically renew the
protection orders, which
currently expire after one
“We need laws that re-
flect that sexual assault is
100 percent the responsi-
bility of the offender,"
Gelser said. "It isn’t about
sex, it’s about vulnerabil-
ity and power.”
But Gelser doesn't
think sexual assault is
something any single law
can fix. And neither does
Downing, who believes
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Friday, Aug. 24 is an eve-
ning of swimming, activ-
ities and dinner that’s
free and open to all.
Starting with dinner at 5
p.m. at Coolidge
McClaine Park, the
night’s activities – in-
cluding swimming, bingo,
music, photos and crafts
– will run through 9 p.m.
Silverton Kiwanis Club
will serve the picnic din-
ner from 5 to 7 p.m.,
while Silverton Senior
Center will host bingo
games from 7 to 8 p.m.
Silverton Ukelele Net-
work will provide live
music from 5 to 8 p.m.,
and families can get free
portraits taken by Por-
trait Express all evening.
Across Silver Creek, the
city pool will be open for
free swimming from 7 to
9 p.m.
For more information, call
the senior center at 503-
873-3093 or Silverton
Together at 503-873-
spotlight water,
member art
A pair of art galleries in
Silverton are halfway
through their August
Lunaria Gallery, at 113 N.
Water Street, presents
“The Sanctity of Water,” a
collection of paintings of
Willamette Valley rivers
and streams by Theresa
Sharrar. In celebration of
the 50th anniversary of
Congress’ 1968 Wild and
Scenic Rivers Act, Sharrar
has pledged to donate a
portion of her sales to
preserving America’s
The gallery’s loft will be
showing “Points of In-
terest Along the Eastern
Sierras,” paintings by
guest artists Carolyn
Canoy and Susan Apple-
Borland Gallery, at 303
Coolidge Street, is fea-
turing a variety of art-
work, in all mediums,
created by local artists
this month.
The two galleries’ show-
ings end Sept. 3 and
Sept. 2, respectively.
– Christena Brooks